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Zelensky calls for no-fly zone and harsher sanctions on Russia in Zoom meeting with US lawmakers

<i>Laurent Van Der Stockt/Getty Images</i><br/>Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on at a press conference for selected media at his official residence the Maryinsky Palace on March 3
Getty Images
Laurent Van Der Stockt/Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on at a press conference for selected media at his official residence the Maryinsky Palace on March 3

By Suzanne Malveaux, Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak, CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told US lawmakers Saturday that his country urgently needs more assistance from the US, including the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as it fights against Russia’s invasion.

During an hourlong Zoom meeting Saturday morning with members of Congress, Zelensky thanked the US for the support it has delivered so far, but called for more military support and greater sanctions on Russia, including on energy, according to a person familiar with the session.

The Ukrainian leader advocated banning Russian oil imports and suspending all commercial transactions, like Visa and Mastercard, a senator on the call told CNN.

Zelensky also implored the lawmakers to help Ukraine get more planes that Ukrainian pilots are trained in and can fly, according to the senator.

Following the call, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Zelensky “made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine. These planes are very much needed.”

“And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” the New York Democrat said.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska voiced his opposition to a no-fly zone in a statement after the call, saying the situation could “spiral out of control quickly.” But he urged the US to send more air power.

Several senators took to Twitter to express their support for Zelensky and Ukraine. South Dakota’s John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised the Ukrainian leader for his “inspiring bravery and resolve while under attack, just like his fellow countrymen.” Thune said the US stands with Ukraine and “must help keep them in the fight while leading the free world against [Vladimir] Putin’s war of conquest.”

At the end of the call, dozens of lawmakers unmuted to thank Zelensky and voice their support, with some saying “Slava Ukraini,” according to a person who was on the call. The Ukrainian President was clearly moved by the gesture, the person added.

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CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Lauren Fox, Veronica Stracqualursi and Eva McKend contributed to this report.

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